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Fascist Attacks On Italian High School Students Spark Mass Protests


On Saturday, March 2, thousands of teachers, workers and youth protested in Florence, Italy, against a fascist attack on Florentine high school students. Between 20-50,000, people marched in a declaration of opposition to fascist violence.


 On February 18, two students were attacked by members of the far-right group, “Azione studentesca”. According to reports, two students were disgusted by the right-wing contents of the group’s leaflets and refused to accept them. A savage beating swiftly followed.


A video taken at the scene shows six students punching and kicking a prone figure on the ground until the arrival of a teacher. The attackers are reportedly under investigation by DIGOS, a police branch specializing in counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.


The attack has provoked a mixed reaction from school administrations. The Liceo Michelangiolo school, outside which the attack occurred, issued a perfunctory and empty statement condemning the actions of both sides. Yet Annalisa Salvino, the principal of the nearby Liceo Leonardo Da Vinci, gave a markedly different response. In a letter to students, Salvino gave a chilling warning of the dangers of fascism


“Fascism did not arise in Italy at large rallies of thousands of people. It began on the edge of an ordinary sidewalk, where the victim of a politically motivated beating was left to fend for himself by indifferent passers-by. “I hate the indifferent,” said Antonio Gramsci, a great Italian whom the fascists imprisoned until his death because the power of his ideas frightened them like rabbits.”


“In times like these totalitarianism could gain a foothold to ruin the future of entire generations.” 


“Those who praise the value of borders, who venerate the blood of their own ancestors in opposition to the “others,” those who still erect walls, must be isolated, called by their name and fought, with culture and with the power of ideas. We must not be under the illusion that this disgusting resurgence will disappear by itself. Many decent Italians also believed that 100 years ago, but it did not happen that way.”

This statement earned her the ire of Education Minister Giuseppe Valditara, who threatened to reprimand the school principal, “if this attitude translates into an approach that goes beyond school boundaries, we will see if it is necessary to take action.”


Seeking to downplay the seriousness of the incident, Valditara described the attack in a TV interview on February 23 as a “ridiculous scuffle between students”, saying that it was “not the job of a principal to spread such messages”. The minister further berated Salvino’s letter saying it had “nothing to do with reality,” and that there is “no fascist threat nor a drift toward violence or authoritarianism,” in Italy. 


Valditara, who has political origins in the fascist Alleanza Nazionale party and is a member of the right-wing Lega party, declared that “defending the borders and remembering the identity of a people has nothing to do with fascism or, even worse, Nazism.”


 Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Fratelli d’Italia (FdI), has yet to make an official statement on the incident. Many years ago, she chaired the “Azione studentesca”. This fascist youth organization and its predecessors have their roots in the 

Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), the movement of Mussolini supporters after the Second World War. The Azione Studentesca Florence branch has its headquarters in the same building as Meloni’s FdI.


The education minister’s reaction caused a general outcry. Spontaneously, Florentine students organized a protest demonstration throughout the city, and enormous anger at Valditara spread on the Internet. Finally, the largest trade union federation, CGIL, felt compelled to call for a national demonstration in Florence on Saturday, March 4, in “defence of the school and the constitution.”


There was a wave of public outrage and vitriol at Valditara’s statements, which saw thousands spontaneously take to the streets in protest throughout the city and in support of Salvino’s anti-fascist stance. After days of mass protests, a national demonstration in Florence on Saturday, March 4, was called for by Italy’s largest trade union federation, the CGIL.


Saturday’s protests drew support from all over the region, with students, teachers and workers standing in solidarity and resolutely declaring that Florence is “anti-fascist.” 

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